How I see so many movies in theaters (aka RIP MoviePass)

There’s no doubt that movie theaters are struggling these days. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have made it easier than ever to watch new movies from the comfort of your own couch – which normally is something I fully support. Leaving your house to do anything is terrible. Like comedian John Mulaney says, “It’s so much easier not to do things than to do them.”

But there’s still something that can be said for watching movies in a movie theater. Sitting in a dark room with a giant screen, seeing your favorite characters larger than life with the ultimate surround sound can transport you right into the story. It fully immerses you in that world and you forget about everything else for a couple of hours. Plus, there are some movies that are just made to be watched on the big screen.

Recently, theaters have been making a lot of updates to make sure people keep coming to watch movies. Changes that make the price of tickets, popcorn, and snacks worth it. Just going to see one movie can wind up being pretty expensive. Something had to be done to keep theaters competitive with Netflix.

In late 2017, a company called MoviePass rocked the entertainment industry. Billed as “the Netflix of movies,” MoviePass would let you see one movie every day for the low cost of $9.95 a month.

One. Movie. A. Day.

For $9.95 a mONTH??

Like, are you kidding??

That’s less than an actual movie ticket! MoviePass would immediately pay for itself just by seeing ONE movie. Users would use a MoviePass credit card to pay for the movies (which would charge MoviePass for the price of the ticket). You also had to be less than 100 yards from the theater to “activate” your ticket, so you couldn’t pre-order tickets ahead of time.  

I subscribed to MoviePass in November 2017 just to see how it worked. At such a low price it couldn’t hurt! Initially, I used it to see movies I wouldn’t normally pay to see in theaters. One of the first things I did was see as many of the Oscar Best Picture nominees that year. It introduced me to the more artistic side of movies and knowing more about the movies nominated made watching the Oscars much more enjoyable. So for me, MoviePass was a game-changer.

But MoviePass had some glaring issues from the start. Setting the price at $9.95 a month enticed millions of people to use the service, but the price was not high enough to recoup their costs. MoviePass was having to pay the full price of each ticket bought with their credit cards but were charging less than the price of a full ticket for their service. They were hemorrhaging money.

Throughout the first half of 2018, MoviePass changed their pricing structure multiple times, restricted availability for certain movies, and had spotty reliability. The video below does a much better job of explaining what went wrong with MoviePass, so I highly suggest watching it if you’re interested.

I stuck with MoviePass through most of the changes, but in July 2018 I decided enough was enough. Luckily, there was another, better option.

In response to MoviePass’s initial success, theater chains began working on their own versions of subscription services. AMC, the largest theater chain in the country, launched the AMC A-List the same month I quit MoviePass.

The A-List, which cost $20 a month, was similar to MoviePass, but only allowed members to see up to three movies each week and pre-order tickets online. You also get points for AMC’s membership program that you can redeem for $5 off at the concession stand.

Other theater chains announced similar programs, but since almost all the major theaters in Birmingham are AMCs, it was kind of an obvious choice. Using the A-List has been one of the best decisions. Since joining in August 2018, I’ve seen almost 50 movies in theaters and saved almost $300 by not buying each ticket individually. (AMC, if you’d like to sponsor me for this glowing endorsement, hit me up!)

MoviePass definitely deserves credit for introducing the concept of movie subscription services to the world. It changed the way people see movies, but it just didn’t have the right business model to sustain itself. MoviePass shut down indefinitely in September 2019.

So now I get to go see any movie I want ~basically~ for free. I don’t go see movies in a theater every weekend, but I absolutely go enough to justify the cost of $20 each month for the A-List. Some months are slower than others – like I only saw two movies in theaters in August, but there are NINE movies being released in November that are on my must-see list.

These subscription programs obviously aren’t for everyone. Nearly half of Americans just go to a movie theater once or twice a year. But for crazy people like me, who go multiple times a month, or people who want to see a wider variety of movies, it’s definitely worth a shot. There are so many good movies being released each year – all you have to do is get out of your house and go see one (sitting in a different dark room that’s not your own)!

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